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The Case for Learning Perl

by newrisedesigns (Curate)
on Jun 11, 2002 at 19:42 UTC ( #173641=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

first off, please see this node or one like it.

Perl Monks is well known throughout the Internet as a educational, recreational respository for all things Perl. The average user, who previously had no knowledge of Perl can quickly find information about the Perl lifestyle here.

But PerlMonks is not just the starting point for learning Perl. Here we have a brain trust of authors, XPs, and JAPHs. Here we are allowed to speak our minds on topics concerning the Perl community. It is the home of Perl users from all walks of life. I enjoy the ability to ask questions, pose solutions, and joke around with people from England, the Netherlands, Canada, Lebanon, and so on. And what makes it strong is not the work of just one person (no offense, vroom) but the work of all of us that sign in, vote and post regularly.

I see no threat to this way of life. Perl Monks is strong, and I doubt users will be looking for greener pastures anytime soon. However, the quality of this existence can always be increased.

A scenario: Anonymous Monk signs in and makes a post. Sometimes, AM is just a troll, or is very, very confused. But sometimes, like in the post mentioned above, sometimes AM really wants to get something to work. Perhaps AM shows interest in learning Perl. Now of course, the average monk will give advice and help out AM. Along with this advice should be an invitation and a URL. Give them an explicit request to join the ranks.

Anonymous Monk will also submit information that is beneficial to the society. Ask him/her to join as well.

The world of today is changing greatly. Most of the First World nations are adopting a second currency, and it's not the Euro. It's information. We judge a person's worth by the amount of information they produce (as opposed to book knowledge... I believe we value the application of knowledge, not the hording of it) and respect those with the most creative thoughts. This is revolutionary. Class structures from long ago were based on your birth, or the amount of land your family possessed. Even today, you are often judged by your financial standings. This is changing. People from all backgrounds, all cultures, all tax brackets are able to sit down at the same table and share information regardless of nationality, creed, and race. You are judged solely on your practical knowledge, and you are not discriminated if you lack knowledge that others possess. Instead of pushing out those that possess less, they are in fact accepted and praised for their desire to learn. And in educating those without the same knowledge as yourself, you in turn help yourself and the community.

There is an innate desire to learn. The best way to educate is to keep fires stoked. Make them want to come back and learn more. Don't let them stop at downloading something just for fun. Get them to think outside that template. Even if they decide that they have had enough to drink from our pot, they will have contributed to this society and to the pools of general knowledge.

I think I might have gone slightly off my own topic, but I feel strongly about this. My initial reason to sign up was to learn how to make my website fancier. But after reading up on Perl through this site, I've used Perl for many other tasks. Perl Monks has taught me things outside the realm of Perl itself. Monks like Tilly, jcwren, and ovid (among many others) have had incredibly wise words that reach beyond Perl. If I hadn't signed up and chose to remain Anonymous Monk, I'm sure I wouldn't have become enlightened to Perl, and the many social and cultural values this site also has to offer.

John J Reiser

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The Case for Learning Perl
by talexb (Chancellor) on Jun 11, 2002 at 20:49 UTC
    Well said, but ..

    I believe the community here wants to retain some civility between members and visitors. Civility requires adherence to a glob of rules that are really just common sense and politesse as applied to electronic communications.

    While it may bruise visitors' egos when their "Hurry, I need an answer to this" gets downvoted, it's nothing less than should be expected. Picture this:

      The coffee shop is half full of people, some talking in groups, some reading magazines or papers. Some are drinking coffee, some have tea, others have bottles of fruit juice. A few have plates in front of them. Every few minutes people get up from the table they're at and join a different table or leave altogether.

      The walls are packed with neatly indexed papers, textbooks, PODs and articles. A staff member is on duty for questions, in case a visitor wants to search for information on a particular topic. The name badge says 'Super'.

      There are just a few small pictures on the walls; apart from that the interior decoration is sparse but functional. New arrivals (regulars or first time visitors) get a few waves from the people already inside the coffee shop. The atmosphere is serene. The serving people behind the counter are quick and efficient, with name tags that say 'MySQL', 'Apache', "Linux' and 'Perl'.

      A first time visitor comes in, picks a table with some people at it, grabs a chair, pushes their way in and sits down. They plunk down a ratty text, knocking a plate to the floor, and demand help with their problem. Conversation slows. A staff member comes out from behind the counter to clean up the broken crockery.

      The visitor leaves the listing on the first table, and storms over to another table and slaps down another copy of the listing. More astonished faces, and the coffee shop gets quieter.

      Slowly, the ghostly number above the newcomer's head turns from a light coloured zero to a red coloured number. Many hands point to the literature available on the shelves that line the coffee shop. Frustrated, the visitor storms out.

      The conversation returns, perhaps a little louder than before, with a few moments of laughter. A few people flip through the ratty listing left behind and leave notes for the stranger, in case they return.

      Outside, the world hurries on ..

    All that to say, if you have any common courtesy, or if you've been on the Internet for a while, you should know that when visiting a new community, be polite. This means

    • No shouting
    • Don't make any demands for immediate service
    • Speak clearly and distinctly
    • Come prepared

    Not really much different from common sense, eh?

    --t. alex

    "Nyahhh (munch, munch) What's up, Doc?" --Bugs Bunny

      You make a good point, but I feel that those that want to learn ask for help in a rather positive way. I can give you a list of nodes where an Anonymous Monk committed a serious faux pas however, registered users can also shatter plates and ignore the books on the shelves. We have had some users that did nothing but cause trouble.

      Civility is one of the key elements learned/acquired during one's stay at the Monestary. Those that have been here a while may still not have learned it. Many Anonymous Monks have been more than humble in their manner in which they ask questions.

      I don't want everyone and their mom to join if they have no desire to learn. If a script kiddie or a frustrated compsci student wants some help and that's that, fine. But if someone shows some initiative to learn, and seems like the type to stick around, then I think we should extend him or her an invitation to join.

      John J Reiser

        First, Perl is not an easy language. Perl was not the first language i learned, nor the second, or third, or even the fourth. Some people are simply not ready for Perl, and i for one would never put someone on a motorcycle before they first learned how to ride a bicycle very well.

        You raise some very good points, and i do appreciate reading such arguments to remind me of why i am here, but not everyone that comes asking for help should be using this language right now. It's dangerous without proper wisdom, and sometimes you have to say "don't touch that - you will get burned" in a rather scolding tone.

        As for those with initiative to learn, they will stick around without anyone having to extend them an invitation because they will see the benefit of staying. I am not saying that we should not extend invitations, i am simply saying that those who really want to learn realize that it is up to themselves to put forth the effort, not us.

        Good root post, by the way.


        (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
:> The Case for Learning Perl
by ignatz (Vicar) on Jun 12, 2002 at 11:26 UTC
    A long time ago I was playing in an orchestra used for a conducting master class given by Edo de Waart who at the time was conductor of the SF Symphony. The participants were all young graduate level conductors. The piece was the first movement to Dvorak's New World Symphony.

    A woman came out and started conducting. Her technique was stiff and she was unprepared. That much was obvious to everyone in the room but her. As she led the orchestra, 'Maestro' de Waart walked up to the podium and with a slight wave of his hand stopped the orchestra. "You are wasting everyone's time. You will never make it as a conductor. Who is next?" The woman stepped down and left the hall in tears.

    It was the cruelest thing I had ever seen. Much more so than any "flame" I've read online. Her big moment in front of the master and he crushes her like a used tin can. Was he right to have done that? I have yet to decide. The one thing that everyone there that I talked to agreed on was that it would either ruin her or turn her into a much better conductor.

    Whenever one comes before a master and asks his/her advice, there is always the risk that he will give it to you. When he does, no matter how harsh or cruel or discouraging be grateful that he has. One comes to learn the way, not to feel good. If one cares about the toll it takes on one's pride, better to travel down another path.

      In the courses we teach, I stress to the instructors that the most important thing is to understand where the student is at when they ask a question, and that our job is to create a bridge from there to wherever they've paid us to take them.

      However, sometimes these bridges are of the form of questions, not answers. Perhaps that annoys the "give it to me" crowd, but it certainly provides the proper environment for ongoing learning, long after we've packed up our laser pointers and headed home.

      I'm also reminded of an aphorism given in one of the many management training classes in which I've participated:

      You're only as strong as your strongest opponent.
      On that scale, I'm pretty strong. {grin}

      -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

        In the courses (Solaris, Perl, Networking) I often do the same. Replying to questions with counter questions. There can be several reasons for counter questions.
        • A question arises from a wrong assumption of how things are. By asking questions you can quickly narrow down where the wrong assumption is being made.
        • It can give the student a much better understanding of why a question has a certain answer. Understanding is far more valuable than knowing.
        • Sometimes a question is phrased so poorly (often by lack of understanding or knowing) that there is no answer, or the answer doesn't help the student. Asking counter questions can be more helpful than saying "Your question doesn't make sense".

        Unfortunally, if you apply such techniques on the net, be it on Usenet, web forums like this, and also on IRC, you are quickly labelled as being a bitch. For some reason, it's often expected to just give the answer.


      Interesting that you drew upon a music analogy -- I too have a story in that area to tell.

      After singing with a wonderful bunch of guys in a chorus who couldn't sing a tuned chord more than once a week, back in 1998 I decided to audition for a place in the Northern Lights, a new chorus that was starting up. They were sounding very hot.

      With Grade 7 in Piano, Grade 2 in Music Theory and my experience with the previous chorus (section leader), I worked hard and went in for the audition. It was a tough audition and I was plenty nervous. After the audition I stood around waiting for someone to congratulate me.


      The Assistant Director came over and said that I'd done well, but I wasn't up to their standards. I was welcome to continue to come out and sing with the chorus and improve, and I could have one more shot at an audition to the group.


      To say that the audition failure affected me would be to understate the point. I was miserable, then made that realization that this was a challenge. If I worked hard before the first audition, I redoubled my efforts afterwards. After the second audition, the Director of the group came over to tell me that although I'd improved, I still wasn't up to the standards of the group.

      But admission to the group is also granted to those who show some definite signs of promise, and he admitted me on those grounds.

      I worked even harder for him after that, and I still do.

      The lesson to be learned? When corrected by a wiser person (or a reasonable facsimile), do not take this personally, for if you are committed to your art, you will not take it personally, but rather study harder -- or realize that you are labouring in the wrong field. When the conductor of the SF Symphony told the woman to sit down, he was doing her a favour, most likely saving her and her instructors a great deal of time -- she must have had to re-evaluate her decision to take part in that field. That's very valuable feedback, the same feedback that is given freely here.

      --t. alex

      "Nyahhh (munch, munch) What's up, Doc?" --Bugs Bunny

Re: The Case for Learning Perl
by gumby (Scribe) on Jun 12, 2002 at 21:29 UTC
    I have only used Perl for a short period of time: as in any area of human wisdom, there are those who have great knowledge and experience.

    'It appears to me that if one wishes to make progress in mathematics, one should study the masters and not the pupils.' - N.H. Abel

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